Here’s an article we never thought we’d have to write. What a time to be alive!
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, people from all over the world are stuck at home, helping to flatten the curve. While some countries like the USA have started relaxing their ‘stay at home’ orders, health experts say that it’s still too early to come out of quarantine.
Staying at home for weeks on end isn’t easy as we’re slowly finding out. It’s even worse if you have to stay segregated from your loved ones to protect them and yourself. So in an effort to help you stay sane through this difficult period, we’ve come up with a list of 10 online quarantine essentials.
With nothing much else to do, a lot of people have resorted to hitting the interwebs quite hard. As with any other time, it’s a good idea to keep our data protected. Virtual Private Networks or VPNs can help keep the intrusive eyes of the government and marketers from mining your data.
In addition, VPNs can help you access content that’s blocked in your country or region. So if you’re bored with the regular programming, you can use a VPN to look at content that is otherwise exclusive to countries like the US. For instance, did you know that Netflix blocks a lot of its shows from being aired in countries other than the US? Australians can only access 60% of all the TV shows and movies that are on Netflix.
If you’ve been on YouTube anytime in the past couple of years, then you undoubtedly know NordVPN. They’ve been marketed pretty heavily by all sorts of YouTube channels. NordVPN also tops a lot of Top Ten VPNs lists and for good reason. First of all, they’ve got about 5800 serves spread across 60 countries. This can help eliminate lag regardless of where you’re connecting from because you can undoubtedly find a server that’s not too far away.
NordVPN takes data protection seriously. It’s based in Panama, which is pretty much a safe-haven for data. Panama doesn’t participate in any form of convention that requires them to share information with other countries. So if your internet service provider or government requests from NordVPN, then they aren’t really obligated to comply.
Right now, you probably won’t be able to find a Top VPN list without any mention of NordVPN. It’s one of the most widely known and used Virtual Private Networks in the world. But does it truly live up to its popularity and hype? Is it really the ‘The World’s Most Secure VPN’ as the company claims? These are the questions we’ll be addressing in this article.
Panama has zero data retention laws so NordVPN doesn’t have to keep logs of your browsing data. So in the end, only you know what website you’ve visited and how long you browsed on it. Plus you can use NordVPN’s double encrypted servers which put two layers of encryption on your traffic data.
NordVPN offers some of the fastest download and upload speeds among VPNs. For example, let’s say you have a 100mbps connection and you live in Europe. If you’re connecting to a local server, then you’ll be able reach up to 95mbps in download speeds, which is only a 5% loss! If you’re connecting to a US server, on the other hand, you can expect your connection to be 12 to 15 Mbps slower. However, that’s still enough for online gaming and to run most other applications.
Lastly, NordVPN has a ton of servers located in the US, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands that you can use to circumvent geo-restrictions imposed by services such as Netflix, BBC, Disney+, and Pandora.
Speaking of, Express VPN has a lot of servers spread across the US, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands which allows you to bypass Netflix, Disney+, and other streaming services.
2. Money Transfer Service
Visits to the bank or the ATM are out of the question when you’re self-isolating. While you might have an online banking service set up to facilitate bill payments and transfers, there are a few problems with these. For instance, banks usually charge high transfer rates, especially if you’re sending money to an account in another bank. Sometimes the transaction can take a while as well. In light of these issues, we recommend that you use a popular and reliable international money transfer service like
The service is quite user-friendly as well. Once you’ve got an account set up with them, you can transfer money in four easy steps:
1) Specify the amount you want to send and
2) Add the recipient’s bank details. If you don’t know these details,
3) Verify your identity by taking a photo of your ID and uploading it.
4) Select your payment method and confirm.
After you’ve made a transfer, you can easily track it inside your account.
3. Disney Plus
Streaming TV shows and movies is an excellent way to spend your time in Quarantine. If you’re trying to decide which streaming service to go for, we highly recommend choosing Disney Plus.
When Disney set its sight on streaming services, people knew they were going to give Netflix, HBO, and Hulu a run for their money. As expected, Disney Plus made a huge splash on launch with the critically-acclaimed Mandalorian series. It earned Disney a huge following and now they’re aiming to keep this momentum going with a whole host of upcoming TV shows.
For example, this August, Disney Plus is releasing the short MCU series ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’. The plot supposedly picks up after The Avengers: Endgame and thankfully casts Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan who play The Falcon and Winter Soldier on the Marvel movies.
Following that, Disney Plus will release the second season of the Mandalorian in October. So everyone will be seeing their favourite intergalactic bounty hunter and ‘Baby Yoda’ again very soon. Then in December, we’re going to be treated to yet another Marvel Series: WandaVision, which is based on the Scarlet Witch.
Again, we’re going to see Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany return to their roles as the Scarlet Witch and Wanda Maximoff, respectively. The series was filmed pretty quickly. Shooting began in November, last year and ended just last month.
The downside is that Disney Plus isn’t available in every part of the world and unlike Netflix, it doesn’t just block some of the content. Instead, it shuts off certain regions entirely. However, this shouldn’t be a problem when you’re using a VPN like NordVPN or
4. AntiVirus Software
Malware is still a problem in this day and age, despite computers and other devices being more technologically advanced. Unfortunately, hackers have become more advanced too, creating viruses that are more subtle but powerful at the same time. Hence, since we’re all quarantined and going to be spending a lot of time on the internet, let’s try to protect our identities and data with a great antivirus program.
Here are three of our picks for the best antivirus software in 2020:
Regardless of the price, you may want to invest in a multi-device MacAfee subscription to keep yourself protected in 2019. The keylogger protection alone would be worth the price. If you are a parent, there are excellent features to benefit from that most standard malware protection programs don’t offer.
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5. Audio Books
As a lot of book fans will tell you, reading is a great way to temporarily escape from a miserable reality. However, it requires a lot of focus and you need to get into the habit of doing it. That’s where audiobooks come in.
Audiobooks are great for people who want to get into reading but don’t have the patience to get down to it. When you’re listening to a story instead of reading it, you’re not really doing any work. Plus it leaves your hands free so you can simultaneously tackle some household chores or take care of work remotely.
How do you get your hands on some Audiobooks?
If you’ve ever bought a book on Amazon, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Audible. Audible is a popular platform for audiobooks (maybe even the biggest in the industry). It has pretty much any book from any genre that you might be looking for. Audible is owned by Amazon, and if you’ve got one of their Prime Accounts you can access the service for free.
If you don’t have an Amazon Prime Account, then Audible comes with a free one month trial after which you have to pay $14.95 a month. After that, you can pay for whatever books you want to download onto your Kindle device or app and start reading. In addition, you can stream audiobooks on Audible itself and in fact, there are some titles that you can listen to for free right now, including:
What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe is a writer who likes to blend science with humour, resulting in a very unique strain of comedy. Narrated by Will Wheaton, this audiobook answers some of the silliest scientific questions including ‘what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball thrown at 90% of the speed of light?’. Munroe approaches each hypothetical question with legit science but dowses it all with comedy to keep things interesting.
The Prestige by Christopher Priest
If you loved the film Prestige by Christopher Nolan, then you’re going to be enthralled by the book it’s based on. Since Nolan didn’t follow the original premise fully, the book will give you a whole new experience. The tale revolves around two young magicians who are engaged in a heated competition to become the best.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
If you haven’t read this classic, then it’s the best time to get around to it. Even if you’ve read it before, you most likely haven’t heard it being narrated by beloved Actor Nick Offerman, who played Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation. Not only is Offerman’s voice well-suited for the context of this tale but his expert manipulation of tone makes it well worth a revisit.
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
This true-crime tale isn’t the easiest to listen to on account of its grim content but it’s no doubt fascinating. It follows the true story behind the abduction and brutal murder of Lucie Blackman, a young English woman, shortly after she arrived in Tokyo.
6. Splendid Spoon
Long-term self-isolation can have a huge impact on mental health. The way a lot of people cope with this is by turning to comfort food, which in turn, leads to further deterioration of health. It’s understandable that you and your family might not be mentally put-together enough for meal-prepping or cooking these days, despite being less busy. Hence, why we recommend subscribing to a healthy meal delivery service instead, like our favourite, Splendid Spoon.
If you haven’t heard of Splendid Spoon, they sell healthy meal kits which include a mix of smoothies, soup bowls, wellness shots, rice bowls, bean bowls, and light soup. You don’t have to do any actual cooking to prepare these. Simply heat them for around five minutes on the stove or microwave and you’re good to go.
Splendid Spoon’s meal kits are nourishing and filling. If you’re an obsessive ‘snacker’, then you might be understandably skeptical about a meal kits’ ability to make you full, especially a liquid one. However, as a lot of Splendid Spoon’s customers will tell you, the large servings and the high fiber content will keep you from visiting the fridge and pantry several times during meals.
Splendid Spoon puts a lot of time and effort into making sure that their meals contain a lot of fiber. The fruits and vegetables included in their smoothies and soups respectively have been blended or cooked down so that they retain most of their fiber content.
According to Mayo Clinic, high-fiber diets provide a lot of health benefits. For starters, they normalize bowel movements and some studies have shown that fiber may help keep the bowel healthier by lowering the risk of colorectal cancer.
In addition, fiber can also:
- lower cholesterol levels
- control your blood sugar
- help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
It’s very easy to buy a meal subscription for Splendid Spoon. When you click ‘Get started’ on their website, you’ll first be prompted to choose from three plans:
- Lunch – Includes 5 bowls delivered each week, costing you a total of $65
- Breakfast + Lunch + Reset – Includes 5 smoothies and 5 bowls plus 1 full-day reset per week. This plan costs you $135 a week.
- Breakfast + Lunch – Includes 5 smoothies and 5 bowls each week, totaling $95.
After that, it’s simply a matter of specifying your shipping preferences and then checking out. After you’ve checked out, you can choose from over 40 different flavours for your order each week. You can also instruct Splendid Spoon to avoid certain ingredients that you might be allergic to or just don’t want to have in your food. By default, all their meals are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and don’t contain much sugar or sodium.
Splendid Spoon orders are packed in dry ice and ClimaCell insulation so they always arrive at your house chilled. If you’re not up to eating your meal the day it arrives, you can store it in the fridge and it will still be fine to eat a week later. If you put the grain and soup bowls in the freezer, they’ll be good for a month. The smoothies and Wellness shots, on the other hand, will be good enough to consume until the expiration date printed on their labels.
Perhaps the only downside with Splendid Spoon is the high cost of its plans. However, we firmly believe a subscription is worth it, considering the high quality of their meal kits and the healthier lifestyle they promote.
7. Tidal Music Streaming
Listening to music is a great way to keep away the quarantine blues and to lift your spirits while you’re stuck in the house for what seems like forever. Since it can be undoubtedly expensive and a hassle to purchase a lot of music, streaming is the next best thing. For that, we recommend Tidal.
Tidal made a big splash back in 2015 when it was re-launched by Jay Z’s company Project Panther Bidco. It was promoted as the first artist-owned music streaming service ever. Today, Tidal is still going strong, managing to hold its own against other streaming titans such as Spotify and Deezer.
What’s So Great About Tidal?
A lot of things. First and foremost, the app offers lossless playback if you purchase a Tidal HiFi membership. This is an absolute godsend if you’re a music purist and hate listening to tunes in compressed mp3 format. While music is Tidal’s main offering, they also give you access to original video series and podcasts, though there isn’t an extensive library of the latter just yet.
Then there’s the Tidal X program, which gives fans a way to more directly connect with their favourite artists. This includes being able to attend unique live shows, attend meets and greets, and get tickets more easily. Here are a few examples of how Tidal X has enabled better interaction with artists:
Back in September 2019, Rihanna launched a runway show in Paris called ‘Fenty by Rihanna’. The show was streamed live for Tidal X members and a select few were allowed to secure seating for the exclusive event. In another instance, Kanye West invited 500 Tidal members to attend two of his fashion shows in New York and the event was streamed live on Tidal.
Since August 2019, Tidal has launched new social features for the app, allowing users to share music and videos to Instagram and Facebook stories. While Spotify also allows you to post single tracks to a story, Tidal actually allows you to export whole playlists.
Tidal’s artist-first spirit is perfectly captured by the ‘Tidal Rising’ feature it offers. Located right under the ‘Explore’ section of the app, Tidal Rising is basically a collection of albums and singles from up-and-coming artists, allowing them to be discovered more easily by potential fans. Tidal Rising is a great way to discover some cool new international artists who might have flown under your radar until now.
When you spring for the Tidal HiFi membership, users can get access to four different playback formats: normal, high, Hi-Fi and Master. If your internet connection has limited data allocation or the connection is quite slow, then either normal or high is perhaps the best format. With high, you get 320Kbps sound quality, which isn’t too bad for most casual listeners.
If you’re an Audio purist, then Hi-Fi or Master is the way to go. Hi-Fi gives you a lossless FLAC format, which is obviously the cream of the crop. Hi-Fi is great when you’re listening to music with complicated instrumentation. Depending on how well the tune is mixed, to begin with, you’ll be able to hear every nuance in each instrument.
Similarly, Master delivers music in FLAC or WAV format. It gives you access to high-quality playback without eating up a ton of data. However, not every available song on Tidal is master-supported.
Tidal offers four different subscription tiers: Premium and Hi-Fi. The difference between the two boils down to playback formats. As mentioned above, Hi-Fi gives you access to lossless formats but with Premium, the quality maxes out at 320Kbps.
Premium and Hi-Fi can be further broken down into four different rates, like so:
Overall, we believe that Tidal is one of the best music streaming services out there. It offers a vast array of music for fans and a ton of features to keep you occupied while you’re quarantined.
If you’re trying to decide between Disney Plus and Hulu, we recommend that you just get both. While Disney Plus does produce quality content, its current selection is slightly limited when compared to other streaming services. This is completely understandable, given that it’s very new to the industry. Hulu, on the other hand, has a ton of TV shows and movies that are available to stream right now. That’s why we believe a Hulu subscription can greatly complement your Disney Plus subscription, giving you endless hours of entertainment.
In fact, if you head on over to Hulu’s website, you can purchase a bundle that gives you access to Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN plus for just $12.99 a month. Plus if you’re not entirely sure that Hulu is for you, they offer a free one month trial.
With Hulu, you get access to hundreds of seasons of major TV shows right away, including Futurama, 30 Rock, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle, Scrubs, The Good Place and so much more. In addition to this, Hulu also puts out some great original content like Marvel’s Runaways, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Castle Rock, which are amongst the most popular shows. If you’re up for some dark comedy and unapologetic political commentary, we also recommend that you check out the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog specials which covered America’s 2016 elections.
Hulu is also planning to release a few exclusive Marvel series like Hellstrom, which revolves around a lesser-known character from the MCU. If you didn’t already know, Disney purchased Hulu a while back, which means that we can expect to see more interesting additions to the already-broad catalogue. There’s speculation that Disney may pass on content that’s too adult for Disney Plus to Hulu. In fact, the Lizzie McGuire reboot might end up on Hulu instead of Disney Plus for this very reason.
Hulu also offers a Live TV feature with which you get access to a ton of sports and news TV channels. You can also record up to fifty hours of live TV and rewatch whenever convenient.
9. Hand Sanitizers and Cleaning Products
Of course, we can’t forget the fact that we need to actively protect ourselves and our family from COVID-19. For that, you’re going to need to keep a good supply of hand sanitizers and other cleaning products close by.
The CDC recommends that you clean commonly-touched surfaces like door handles, faucets, and mobile phones often. This is because the COVID-19 virus can last anywhere between a few hours to a few days on these surfaces, depending on how cold the climate is where you live. While person-to-person is the most common way the virus gets transmitted, you can also get it by touching infected surfaces.
It’s also recommended that you wash your hands at least once an hour with soap and water, and avoid touching your face to reduce the chance of the virus finding its way to your respiratory tract. You should spend at least 20 seconds scrubbing your hands, making sure to clean the backs and also underneath the fingernails.
However, if you’re in a situation where you can’t wash your hands frequently, then hand sanitizers are a great alternative. Just make sure that they contain at least 60% alcohol, like the Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer or the Equate Hand Sanitizer with Aloe.
It’s recommended that you use enough sanitizer to completely cover both your hands each time. Squeeze some into your hands and rub until your hands dry; don’t just wipe off the excess. If your hands are covered in grime beforehand, rinse them off with water and dry them off with a paper towel before applying hand sanitizer.
What Other Cleaning Products Should You Get?
We also recommend keeping a few packs of Pharma C Alcohol Wipes which contain 70% isopropyl alcohol. These can be used to sanitize your hands and surfaces that you constantly touch. If you’re too lazy to wipe surfaces constantly, we recommend getting a Lysol disinfectant spray as well, to make things a little easier. If you want more options, check out this list of recommended coronavirus cleaners released by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which includes products from brands like Purell and Lysol.
Don’t Hoard Cleaning Products!
While keeping your family safe is a priority, you should never buy more cleaning products than you need during this time. By only buying what you need, you’ll make sure that everyone else has access to cleaning supplies too.
10. Other Essentials
Pets are a huge factor in the fight against insanity during these miserable times. So make sure they’re well-taken care of with pet food and treats. For adult dogs, we recommend the ever-reliable Pedigree Adult Dry Dog Food – Roasted Chicken, Rice & Vegetable Flavor while for puppies you should consider the Iams Proactive Health Puppy Chicken Dry bags.
On the flip side, make sure that you don’t overfeed them and get them too chunky to go on walks by the time we come out of isolation!
Of course, no isolation essentials list would be complete without any mention of games. One of the most popular games out right now is, of course, Animal Crossing New Horizons for Nintendo Switch. People are pouring endless hours into this game, building their own island while interacting with other players online. If you’re a PS4 owner, then you can’t have missed the release of Final Fantasy VII. It’s everyone’s favourite installation in the Final Fantasy series and now it’s back in HD to take you on a refreshed version of the adventure. In addition, Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal are out for both Xbox One and PS4. Both games have received a lot of praise from fans and critics alike.
Board Games and Card Games
If you’re not really into video games, then some board games might help you pass the time. Perhaps the most appropriate board game to play during this time is Pandemic from Z-Man Games. The objective of the game is to work as a team with other players in order to keep the world safe from epidemics. The game can be played with two to four players. A full round of gameplay takes around 45 minutes, so it should keep you and your family well occupied.
People who are more into settler/civilization-building games might enjoy Catan. It’s best played with three to four players. The idea is that players start off in their own territory with just two houses and through harvesting and trade, they slowly capture more territory. A round of Catan takes about an hour to complete. So this should help you fight off boredom in the process.
Cards Against Humanity guarantees its players a fun and wacky time. It’s essentially a party game where players try to complete fill-in-the-blank statements using offensive words and phrases. Cards Against Humanity comes in different boxes, each containing their own unique flavour of weird, offensive comedy. For instance, there’s the Weed Pack, the Kids Against Maturity and Blue Box. But if you’re looking for a truly bizarre time, then we recommend getting the Absurd Box.
While isolation has certainly upended our lives, there are many things we can do to keep misery at bay. With all the technology we have today, it’s quite easy to find entertainment while being stuck at home. In this article, we’ve covered the list of essentials for getting through the quarantine with your sanity intact. So try these out and let us know what you think!